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LaHood Urges Congress to End FAA Shut Down

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood urged lawmakers Thursday to end the Federal Aviation Administration shut down, saying now is not the time to be furloughing federal workers or losing critical airline tax revenue.

The FAA shut down for the first time in history after Congress failed to pass a bill last week to continue its funding. Since then, nearly 4,000 employees have been furloughed and as many as 70,000 construction workers are out of work.

“Congress needs to pass a clean bill so our 4,000 FAA employees who are without a paycheck since last Saturday can come back to work,” LaHood told reporters at the White House briefing Thursday.

“For all of my friends on Capitol Hill who give speeches every day about jobs, the importance of jobs, putting people to work, this is not the time to be laying off 70,000 construction workers.”

LaHood said he believes unresolved labor and air service issues could be worked out over the next 30 days and he called on Congress to pass a clean extension of the FAA bill, which they have done 20 times in the past.

“Don't hold hostage common, ordinary citizens who want to work, who want to do construction jobs, who make their living doing that, and our FAA employees,” he said, while reiterating that flying is still completely safe.  

The Secretary also chastised airlines for continuing to charge customers a federal tax on tickets and pocketing the money for themselves. “They're collecting this money and it's going to their bottom line.  And I think that is not right, and I simply think it's not fair for them to do that… And I’ve made that known to them,” he said.

Asked if there is a chance that customers could get a refund, LaHood said “we’re trying to figure that out.”

The standoff, which is costing roughly $200 million a week in lost airline tax revenue, amounts to “real money to the Treasury,” LaHood noted.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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